The Pig Duck

The Pig Duck

The wind remains with us; it most likely will be until September; with a few breaks it will blow an average of 25mph. It blows through the Central Valley at dusk acting as a natural air conditioner; in the olden days we would sit on lawn chairs enjoying it. But that was before anyone could afford air conditioning (yes there was such a time) and most people had a huge “Swamp Cooler” hanging from a window or ducted in from the roof. They remain in use and are much less expensive to run then the other.

On to the “Pig Duck”.

Neotropic Cormorants have a Pig like oink call; in Mexico some people refer to them as the “Pig Duck”. They thrive in the protected waters of the United States, Virgin Islands and Latin America plus Southern States of the U.S. They are large for a water bird but are the smallest of the Cormorants; however they resemble the larger Double Breasted Cormorant and often flock together. The Neotropic Cormorants dive for fish where their larger cousins the Double Breasted do not.

They suffered a severe population drop in the 1960’s which is attributed to the same Chemical that wiped out the California Condor; DDT. (History has been re-written to blame lead bullets, however that is not true.) They have rebounded and now occupy many Southern States; where their habitats overlap the Double Crested and Neotropic Cormorants have cross-bred and produced hy-breds.

They are the only Cormorants to dive for fish although not from startling heights; they rarely dive from higher than 2 feet. That’s hardly a dive but it’s successful especially when they team up diving then swimming on the surface flapping their wings while in a line driving fish into a tight school. They then grab the fish, however if a Pelican is nearby the Cormorant is grabbed by the neck and shaken until the fish falls out. The Pelican will then steal the fish and wait for the next bird to surface. The baffling issue about that is why do the Cormorants continue until the larger bird has had its fill?

Once they get into the air they are good flyers, however when taking off from the water it takes them at least 50 feet of runway to gain altitude. It’s a messy takeoff but not as bad as the landing, old Foghorn Leghorn said “Any landing you walk away from is a good landing” he must have been talking about the Cormorant. Their landings are the definition of controlled crashes looking as if someone tossed a bag of cement in the water.

Their feathers are not water proof causing them to have to expose their plumage to the breeze to dry out. Perhaps that’s why they are out in the wind. Neither do they have webbed feet which makes one wonder how they became such good swimmers. It is confusing because I rarely see them on hard ground or atop weeds, but they do frequent the pylons and docks.

I’d like to say they are beautiful birds, they aren’t or well respected not that choice is available as well. Some Natives refer to them as “Junk Birds” which is odd because most have a high regard for all wildlife. But that opinion is based on because it appears the Cormorants catch all of the fish leaving nothing for anyone else. However they know the huge flocks of hundreds of birds that never leave must have a steady supply of food or they would not “hang” around so very long.

Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance

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